The History & Application of Antisemitism in Europe & the U.S.. Part Three: The Fight for Recognition & Emancipation.
Emancipation for Jews in nineteenth century Europe meant freedom from persecution and acceptance. Too long strangers in the towns & cities where they lived and worked, for Jews to be accorded the same rights as Christians had been a long held dream, and it was a dream worth fighting for.
“…in political warfare…/…racism was calculated to be a more powerful ally than any paid agent or organisation of fifth columnists,” wrote Hannah Arendt, and then later affirming that the “old misconception of racism as an exaggerated form of nationalism is still given currency,” statements that remain pertinent even all these decades after that was written.
Hannah Arendt, The Origins of Totalitarianism (1).
The rights of man & emancipation of the Jews
In 1896, in his book ‘The Jewish State,’ Theodore Herzl expressed his desire for Jews to be able to live in a country where they would not be designated ‘strangers.’
Given the events today in Israel, Gaza and the occupied territories, it’s highly pertinent, but also tragically ironic that he wrote, “…oppression and persecution cannot exterminate us,” insisting that centuries of ‘Jew-baiting’ had merely made Jews stronger.
In any nation where Jews had persisted, in spite of the relentless persecution, the majority always kept Jews down-at-heel by labelling them strangers, no matter their degree of assimilation.
Adoption of local culture, dress, language and even intermarriage was not enough to render them unidentifiable in a crowd. The majority would single them out still, irrespective of any legal statutes or emancipation.
Assimilation, Herzl wrote, was not a discreditable act, but it had not staved off antisemitic attacks. With emancipation the state was meant to provide for the ‘political well-being’ of Jews, but because antisemitism was so ingrained everywhere and especially in Germany where he lived…